Summary: What if this Christmas was the last one before the coming of our Lord; are we ready??
Sermon 7 December 2002 – Are we ready this Christmas??
Today is the second Sunday in Advent. We are celebrating that time when Jesus was born, when he came into the world. If we look around the island we see the preparations for Christmas. There are decorations springing up all over the island. When I leave the service today I’ll be heading to my office to decorate my team’s little corner because everyone else has done theirs and are beginning to mock the one little fake tree someone in my team has brought in. The town is filled with the typical sights and sounds of what Christmas has become, but I’ll touch on this more later.
Presents are being bought. I see people laden with shopping bags, mostly with toys for the children, the lights are up, and by and large everyone seems happy and looking forward to the day when they get to open the presents, carve the turkey and generally have a good time. But have people asked themselves why they are doing this?
We know that Jesus had the most profound effect on the world around him, and on the world he left behind when he died on the cross. Before Jesus came into the world we are told how he was preceeded by John the Baptist.
We read in Isiah 40 3 “ A voice calling “ in the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God”
This foretold the coming and the work that John the Baptist was being called to do, and also talks of how the Lord God is coming. Scholars believe that the passage of Isiah 40 was referring to a time after the exile to Babylon. A time when there was much wrong with the world. When John appeared on the scene, his views and mannerisms were unusual to those around him. He was very different to the Judeans who went to hear him. It is said he dressed in an odd way to those around him. Perhaps today he might join me in the Shorts wearing arm of Les Camps church.
When we need to get an important message across sometimes we have to be different. It’s easier to make people sit up and listen if you can make yourself more noticeable. That is what John was doing. He knew his place was to proclaim the coming of Jesus. In Luke’s gospel he say that the one who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me. John, like every person was created for a purpose. John’s purpose was very special. One he could not shirk. John did what was asked of him by God. Indeed Marks gospel begins quoting Isiah 40, and then directly liking that to John.
John was called on by God to announce the arrival of Jesus, and to fortell who he would be and what he would accomplish. This he did with great zeal, despite the risks that came with it. Proclaiming the messiah’s arrival in a world which had degenerated to such a degree that God’s personal intervention was needed was never going to be a picnic. John’s preaching challenged people who had become too tied up in the direction that society seemed to be moving them. He was preparing people to accept that God’s son was Jesus and that he was soon to be among them.
John obeyed God’s wishes and served him with all his might in an increasingly hostile world, Preparing the world for the time when God would reveal himself through Jesus Christ,
So John was proclaiming Jesus’ coming. Then Jesus came. As it had been promised in Isiah. The Old Testament being borne out by the New Testament and proved correct. Now we today have the New Testament promise that Jesus is coming. The books of the New Testament reveal this once again. Maybe on the basis of what went before, we should sit up and take notice! It was right once, it will be right again.
Now I don’t know about you, but I have to confess that one of my favourite things about the modern Christmas is receiving Christmas cards. Now I;m not really dropping hints, you can read into that what you wish! But it reminds me that people love me, remember me at this time of year…..or I guess they have one more card and they can’t bring themselves to throw it away! But knowing that I am cared about in this way is Good News to me.
I also find great joy in sending Christmas cards. I was talking to Sally recently when she was writing her list of who to send cards to and we both commented on how much we enjoy making the list. The chance is there to tell people we care about them and that gives us both happy feelings.